The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the past decade constructing what is now a perennial contender. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Francisco Cervelli, and Jung Ho Kang are under wraps through at least 2016, with McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Harrison, and Mercer locked in through 2018. Ace starter Gerrit Cole is under team control through 2019. Strikeout extraordinaire Francisco Liriano is signed through 2017. Top pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow, who averaged over 11 strikeouts per nine innings at High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A in 2015, is a near-lock to be installed in the rotation next season. Ace relievers Mark Melancon and Tony Watson are due for big arbitration raises, but they’ll be around in 2016.

The organization also sports a savvy and well-rounded manager in Clint Hurdle and a general manager in Neal Huntington who has a knack for finding undervalued or discarded assets (Cervelli, Kang, Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, J.A. Happ, Russell Martin) and brilliantly managing the Pittsburgh’s modest $90 million payroll (no Pirate is scheduled to make more than $13.6 million in 2016, and no Pirate that began 2015 with the club had a salary over $11.6 million.)

The Pirates, who are playing October baseball for the third straight season, aren’t going to stop winning big in the regular season anytime soon—which is actually saying quite a lot, because it was just three years ago that Pittsburgh completed its 20th consecutive season sans a playoff appearance or a winning record. The last time the Pirates reached the postseason in three successive years was from 1990-92, and during that three-year run, Barry Bonds captured his first two Most Valuable Player awards, Doug Drabek won a Cy Young, and manager Jim Leyland presided over a club that averaged 96.3 wins in the regular season. Pittsburgh was a regular-season juggernaut.

The record books indicate that the Pirates advanced to the National League Championship Series each year from 1990-92, but the club didn’t need to win a playoff series to reach the NLCS, as the entire postseason consisted of just four teams during that era. Still, Pittsburgh received a heavy dose of heartbreak in each NLCS appearance, losing to the Reds in six games in 1990 (Glenn Braggs happened) and falling to the Braves in a deciding Game 7 in both 1991 (John Smoltz and Steve Avery happened) and 1992 (Sid Bream happened). The Pirates’ present core has not endured that level of anguish, but there have been October pitfalls over the past two years. In 2013, the Pirates won 94 games and went ahead of the Cardinals two games to one in a NLDS matchup, only to see St. Louis rally for a 3-2 series victory. Last season, the Giants blanked the 88-win Pirates 8-0 in the Wild Card Game.

Despite being set up for additional 90-win seasons for years to come, there’s no better time than the present for the Pirates to win a playoff series and position themselves for a world championship. As the 1990-92 Pirates can attest, potential can only take a club so far, and there’s no telling when the roof can cave in on an organization’s promising future.

Season Wins ERA/NL rank out of 14 teams wRC+/NL rank out of 14 teams
1990-92 96.3 3.40/1st 104/1st
1993 75 4.77/13th 95/6th

Following the 1992 season, Bonds and Drabek left as free agents (after Bobby Bonilla departed after the 1991 season). The Pirates retained a handful of key position players in Andy Van Slyke, Jay Bell, Orlando Merced, and Don Slaught to complement Randy Tomlin, Zane Smith, and Bob Walk, a trio of hurlers who started the majority of the games for the Pirates (outside of Drabek) for the Pirates from 1990-92. Tomlin, Smith, and Walk combined to start 64 games for the 1993 Pirates, but all three regressed from their 1990-92 form.

The Pirates need not look far to realize how fleeting postseason success can be, a hard truth known by their NL Central rivals, the Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds prevailed 91 times in 2010 to win their first division title in 15 years, then won 97 games two years later to clear the second-place Cardinals by nine games. In 2013, the Reds won 90 games and qualified for the NL Wild Card Game. Playoff success for Cincinnati proved to be elusive, though. The Reds were swept in three games by the Phillies in 2010, lost three straight home games to blow a 2-0 division series advantage to the eventual World Series champion Giants in 2012, and were shamed 6-2 by the host Pirates in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game. Because they’ve been responsible financially, the Pirates are in better shape to last longer than the Reds, who handed long, lavish extensions totalling a combined $429 million to Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips, and Joey Votto from 2012-14. After losing 86 times in 2014, the Reds dropped 98 games this year, the franchise’s worst season since 1982.

The point is, one can never be sure when disaster or heartbreak will strike. The Pirates already suffered one serious blow when Kang, the club’s most productive hitter during the second half of the season and one of the top batters in the NL post-All-Star Break, was lost for the season after breaking his left leg and tearing the MCL in his left knee on Sept 17.

The Pirates shouldn’t be intimidated by any other NL squad. The Cardinals won 100 games, but their gaudy record belies a middling offense, and Yadier Molina’s status remains up in the air for the NLDS. Though the Cubs have a manager in Joe Maddon who is fluent in the roller-coaster ride that is playoff baseball, Chicago’s regulars possess either very little or no postseason experience. The Dodgers and Mets are good teams, but there’s a reason why the Pirates’ run differential far exceeded both outfits from April through early October.

For the Pirates’ sake, I hope tonight’s Wild Card Game is the launching point of the deep October run their well-constructed roster deserves.

75 Responses

  1. RFM

    Despite several key players being locked in to long term contracts, even those contracts include gradual salary increases. That, combined with arbitration raises, will start pressing the Pirates’ payroll in the next few years, as happened to the Reds.

    Just saying, the Pirates can’t run on cruise control with such a low payroll. Rising costs, and a desire to extend the window by retaining veterans, pushed the Reds into a rebuild, and the same thing will likely happen to the Pirates in a few years. Enjoy it while it lasts Pirates.

    • ohiojimw

      The Reds essentially gutted their farm system of an entire generation of position players (and as guy who is now an established MLB closer) for 3 years of Latos and 1 year of Choo.

      These players were basically the last generation of players drafted before the Reds started dropping deep into the lower half of the draft. This is the sort of decision making the Pirates have to be careful about if they want to maintain the ability to regenerate from within.

      • Kyle Farmer

        Alonso was going nowhere with Votto at 1B and Baker absolutely refusing to let him attempt to learn LF.

        Grandal was on the juice and I still hold out hope the Mes will recover and prove to be a much better catcher over his career.

        Gregorius was stuck behind Cozart.

        Stubbs was done progressing and simply refused to alter his approach. While Billy has been disappointing, he’s got a better WAR over the last two years than Stubbs. So, counting 13, 14, and 15 we’ve got HUGE return in CF over Stubbs.

        I’m just not seeing a generation of future Reds position players traded away in those two deals.

      • ohiojimw

        Grandal (OPS .756 OPS+ 111 on 426 PAs) and Gregorius (OPS .688 OPS+ 90 on 578 PAs) emerged as everyday/ platoon starters this year on playoff teams. Boxberger collected 41 saves. Alonso was hampered by injuries again but put OPS/OPS+ numbers virtually identical to Grandal’s on ~400 PAs. Stubbs even soft landed as a player on a playoff team.

        If the Reds didn’t see the eventual value in these guys, they erred in that calculation. If they did and made the deals they did, I think it very much debatable whether it was worth mortgaging their future for what they got back.

        Also, the error wasn’t necessarily in making the deals, it is just as much or more in then sitting back and doing nothing to replace the talent that was dealt away. That’s how a team ends up with the AAA/ AAAA types the Reds had on the field the last half of the season on the way to 98 losses.

        More to the point of tying this in with the Pirates current situation. The 4 guys aside from Stubbs figure to make (considerably) less than $10M combined next year (3 1st year arb; one still pre arb).

      • eric3287

        I think it goes more to the front office philosophy. It’s not that keeping Alonso/Grandal/Stubbs/Didi would have turned this season into a success, it’s that a smaller market team has to keep major league talent ready in the minor leagues.

        For instance, in a hypothetical that sees the 2011 Reds move Chapman into the rotation (where he belonged), the Reds after that season likely would not have had to make the trade for another SP (Latos deal).

        Having both Grandal and Meso in the same organization isn’t a case of one “blocking” the other. Those are both athletic catchers and whichever was deemed the worst defensive catcher could have been moved to LF in AAA. Grandal in LF would have eliminated the endless retreads the Reds have run out the past few years.

        Similarly, Didi and Cozart could have both been kept in the organization, and instead of extending BP into his late 30s, the worst defensive player could have been shifted to 2B. But Bob wasn’t willing to let a fan favorite leave in free agency. Since 2012, BP has been worth about 1 win more than Didi total, while Didi is making the league minimum. That extra money could have freed up enough payroll for the Reds to sign an actual MLB starting pitcher rather than Jason Marquis.

        At the time of the Choo trade, though, BP was already signed to an extension and 2013 was really the last chance the organization had to make a deep playoff run. I don’t think that, given the circumstances, the Choo trade was bad. It was just the culmination of poor planning/philosophy of the Bob/Walt/Dusty era.

      • ohiojimw

        Eric, to a large extent I agree with you. Among Meso, Grandal, and Alonso, there only needed to be one odd man out; and that did not need to come to a head for a year or two after the trade. Gregorius could have been kept around as the middle IF sub and be ready to step in now for one of them. All other things being equal, the 2014 Reds might have even been a contender just with Boxberger added into in the pen mix.

        And let’s not overlook that the “other guy” in the Latos trade, Volquez. He has gone on to have a pretty good run since he left the Reds. The last two years, he’s made 30+ starts each year for a playoff team and will start game 3 of one of the ALDS matchups this year.

      • CP

        Well Jim, let’s not also ignore the “other” guys in the Choo/Latos trades. The Reds also got Anthony DeSclafani (3.2 WAR), plus Alex Blandino as a compensation pick for Choo. The Reds control Disco for what, 4 more years and Blandino is tbd. That’s a lot of value.

        The production the Reds got from Choo and Latos was insanely valuable on the open market. Choo and Latos provided roughly the same amount of WAR over their 4 total seasons that Alonso, Grandal, Boxberger, and Didi have all created combined since the trades occurred (15.1 v. 15.4).

        The Reds obviously saw value in the players they traded, but to get value, you have to give up something in return. The Reds took on some medium-term risk for short term rewards. Ultimately, the Reds entered into the Latos/Choo deals because they thought it was best to maximize their chances of winning during a tiny window. They didn’t win any playoff games, and missed their window. I do not agree with the “window” philosophy, but I can’t say they made glaring mistakes in their trades either.

        Alonso is a borderline bust. You called Boxberger an established closer, but he looks more like a guy that could be replaced at any time. I think he’ll end up being a pretty good relief pitcher in the end, but his control issues continue to plague him, and individual relievers are of limited valuable. I mean, he was worth 0 WAR as a closer this season, that’s pretty rough.

        Didi and Grandal are the only 2 players in the deal that I’d be worried about, but Grandal has yet to play a full season. Didi would be the guy I’d be worried about.

      • ohiojimw

        Boxberger led the AL in saves for 2015 with 41

        I’ve read that the reason the Reds had to include the 4th player in the Latos deal was that the Pads felt they were being asked to take Volquez as essentially a salary dump. Whether that player was Grandal or Boxberger, it turned out to be a pretty steep price to pay.

        I said somewhere in the thread that making the deal did not necessarily constitute a big error on its own but making the deal and then doing nothing for years to attempt to recoup the position talent dealt in it together amounted to a mistake that helped get them where they are now.

      • CP

        He also had a 3.71 ERA and a 4+ FIP. Not saying he’s terrible, but he’s a bottom tier closer right now, and that means he probably won’t be a closer for long unless he shows major improvement.

        Yeah, I would agree that the Reds’ major sin was failing to be forward looking. They should have been peeling guys like BP and Homer off in exchange for younger players instead of extending them.

      • Kyle Farmer

        You make excellent points, but your original argument dealt with position players only. Adding Boxberger to the discussion absolutely changes the dynamic. Hard to see the Latos trade overall as a great one even though Latos was unquestionably the team’s ace in 2013.

      • Rm

        Management has utterly failed this team. Would has EVER HEARD of trading ALL FIVE of your starting pitchers from the previous season and then BEING FORCED to start ALL ROOKIES for the last half of a season. I posted on this site that the Reds would finish in last place and they did, after Spring Training. Castellini is in a difficult position, As of now, I would suspect that the losing will massively affect attendance next year. The fans might give the Reds 3 weeks or a month, but that’s probably it. That might finally speak to someone at the need for a clean sweep of the the front office.
        The needs of this team is great as to pitching. They probably had only 3 or 4 actual major league pitchers on the roster by season’s end.
        They had better add 3 or 4 experienced arms in the bull pen, an actual experienced starting pitcher (Not a St. Louis retread like Marquis) and hopefully a real leadoff hitter (Look at how much Fowler meant to the Cubs last night). We still have some players as to the starting 8; Votto is still Votto. But management better do something now other than say we can not afford payroll.

      • Peter Ponds

        Comment of the year. Congratulations!!

  2. jessecuster44

    I’m hoping that the Cubs win, then beat the Cardinals, then lose game 6(@ Wrigley), and the NLCS, to the Mets on an error in the bottom of the 12th inning.

    Because the Cubs should keep Cubbing.

    • jessecuster44

      TOP of the 12th inning. I Cubbed a bit there. Sorry.

    • RFM

      National efforts to get Steve Bartman to attend the Wild Card game failed, so I doubt he’ll show up for any of the other playoff games either.

    • Kyle Farmer

      Couldn’t hope for a better scenario!

  3. redslam

    Stunning to think that with players like ‘Cutch they have nobody earning even $14 million/year right now.. that is incredible, especially considering Cutch was a rookie in 2009 and has accumulated over 4500 PA in his 7 years with them.

    • ohiojimw

      I was trying to compare ‘Cutch’s salary path to Votto’s at like service time levels. ‘Cutch is essentially 2 years behind in service time; but, it is difficult to compare them because Votto shot up to $17M a year for 2013 on the last year of his old deal then actually dropped to to $12M for the first year of his 10 year deal (2014).

      Assuming the 2018 option on Cutch’s contract ($14M) is exercised which seems like a lock barring injury, at the end of 2018 he will have made ~$66-67M (exclusive of performance bonuses) while on MLB service time amounting to 8 years and change. Votto will be just a nudge over 8 years of service time after next season (2016). He will have made ~$85M over the 8 years.

      The bigger difference at this point is that Votto will still have $154M guaranteed over 7 years to come (assuming buyout of 2024 at $7M).

      • Kyle Farmer

        Would Votto have signed a teamfriendly deal like Cutch did? I don’t know the answer.

      • Peter Ponds

        Never, even if it meant crippling the team’s possibility to acquire help around him. And the Reds will pay dearly for their mistake even if his OBP, WAR and any other stat you can make up is elite. 🙂

      • Chuck Schick

        McCutchen didn’t necessarily take a discount.

        Both deals were signed in early 2012. In the 3 seasons leading up to the contracts, Votto had aggregate WAR of 18….McCutchen was 12.4
        ( info from FanGraphs). McCutchen was paid in line with his production at the time.

        Since then, Votto is at 20.1, McCutchen is at 27.90.

      • ohiojimw

        I agree with Chuck. Also the contracts reflect different philosophies by the orgs and/ or player agents. McCutchin was signed for 7 years before arbitration. Votto was signed to the 3 year deal in the middle of his arb years then extended with the 10 year deal just 14 months later as the 2nd year of the three year deal was getting underway. However the terms of the remaining seasons on the 3 year deal (2012-13) remained in place and the bigger deal did not start till 2014.
        The difference in WAR since the signings between the two players is largely a function of Votto losing several months of 2012 and all of 2014 to injury; and don’t overlook that Votto had the leverage of having been MVP in 2010 working to his favor.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Joey Votto is a great player. His contract, not so much. I would deal him in a NY minute.

        The Votto, Bailey and BP contracts are the biggest difference between the two organizations. I doubt the Pirtaes will travel the same path the Reds did.

      • Peter Ponds

        Absolutely. I give the Cards credit for letting Pujols walk. And he was their franchise player , got them a ring and never choked when it mattered.
        Mr Castellini wanted to win, I get it, but 10 years?. BP has played very well to his contract. Homer was an overpaid too, even if his injury is bad luck.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Realistically, the Reds have to “underpay” their talent to succeed on a long-term basis> see Kansas City Royals. The three fellows we are discussing may, or may not, be worth the current contracts but for a small market club, they are definitely not worth it. Hate to say they could have lost 98 games without Joey Votto – the payroll structure is a mess.

      • Chuck Schick

        Using the COT data in Baseball Prospectus, I looked at the last 15 WS winners to see what percentage of payroll was spent on their highest paid player.

        The 15 year average was 15.19%…..the 2003 Marlins had the highest at 20.9…..the 2013 Red Sox the lowest at 10.59%. 9 teams were below 16%, 6 were above.

        The average for the 5 NL playoff teams is 15.36%. Mets are at 19.73%, Dodgers are at 11.54%.

        In order for Votto’s salary to be under 15%, the Reds need to have the following payroll:

        2016: 133m
        2017: 146m
        2018: 166m
        2019: 166m

      • ohiojimw

        Chuck, Interesting on the salary %. If you have the time and gumption try taking a look down the other end of the telescope.

        I have a suspicion that right now and for the next two to three seasons, the Reds can actually get away with seeming to be out of kelter over the large salaries because they are going to have so many young guys at the minimum and the small preArb step ups.

        MLBTR is projecting the minimum to be just under $510K for 2016. With a few exceptions the bump ups for years 2 and 3 prearb are pretty small. A guy who is at the minimum this year isn’t likely to make more than 15-25K above the minimum next year if he is still prearb.

        $10M may cover 15-17 spots on next season’s 25 man roster; and, most of the 40 man roster guys on split contracts are going to be just at or under $100K when they are on option to the minors. If they bring back everybody under contracts that do not involve options and refuse the options (Badenhoff/ Schumaker), I have them right around $90M with the arb guys to be added. Looking at the arb list only Chapman (if not traded first), Cozart and maybe Hoover are likely not to be let go (nontendered); and, only Chapman would cost them that much to keep.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Chuck: Wouldn’t it make more sense to see what the Reds salary would need to be for Votto to be less than 21% of total salary? With the Marlins winning it all at 20.9%, I don’t see the need to be under 15%.

        I never put much stock in these types of numbers anyway. The goal isn’t to have your salary spread evenly among your players, it’s to get good value for all your contracts.

        Boesch, Schumaker, Bourgeois, Negron, and LaMarre put up a combined -4.0 WAR for around $4M.

        Bruce put up .1 WAR for $12.5M; Pena .3 WAR for $1.5M; Phillips 2.6 WAR for $13M; and Byrd .1 WAR for about $3M.

        Together that’s -.9WAR for $34M. You should be able to get that level of production our of 4 regulars and 5 part timers for less than $5M. I’m way more worried about that than I am getting 7.4 WAR from Votto at $14M, or $20M or heck, even $34M.

      • WVRedlegs

        Mr. Conley hits it right square on the nose. Spot on.
        For the billionth time: VOTTO’S CONTRACT IS NOT THE PROBLEM.
        It is what is surrounding him that is the problem.
        I hate to say it, but this might be the ticket for Jay Bruce out of Cincinnati, “Bruce put up .1 WAR for $12.5M”. No value in that. I think we have seen the last days of Bruce in a Reds uniform. Change of scenery time.

      • charlottencredsfan

        WV, it comes down, to two things, with JV’s contract:
        1) They can lose 98 games without him. Rather than spend $20-25 million/year on one player who is great, how about we spend that money over 5 to 7 guys that would be major upgrades at other positions? First base should be the easiest position to find reasonable talent.
        2) I’ll admit, that “today” JV’s contract isn’t a major drag because we are going to have a low payroll regardless. But when this team is ready to compete again (2 years or more), that contract will be an anchor. The biggest problem I always had with the contract, is the length and I believe right now is an opportune time to unload it.

      • Steve Mancuso

        At spending $20-25 million “over 5-7 guys” (that’s a few million a year) it might be hard to find 7.5 WAR.

        And see the difference between getting 7.5 WAR from one player vs. needing 5-7 to get that many WAR? If it’s one person, then you can have the chance of upside in your remaining players. If you spend your $20-$25 million to get 7.5 WAR from 5-7 players, you have less chance for upside because 5-7 players is a pretty big chunk of your regulars.

        People have been saying Votto’s contract was an anchor for years. It hasn’t been and isn’t. Instead of worrying about what possible effect the contract might have in 2020, look at the deadweight the team is carrying in 2014, 2015 and beyond. That’s the real concern.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Charlotte, as I pointed out above, why complain about how they spent Votto’s $14M this year, rather than the $34M they flushed down the toilet? On the open market, Votto’s season would be worth more than $50M. He provided value. You had nine position players combine for negative value that got paid $20M more than Votto. That is what killed the offense.

        Votto’s contract is big and that clearly just makes people uncomfortable. And maybe in the future that will be the problem. But this year, blaming that contract on the losses seems incredibly misguided.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Jerry & Steve – not complaining at all about JV 2015, more concerned about Joey Votto, 2018 on. With injury possibilities, it just seems to me it’s a good time to move him. If you think the Reds are going to be competitive, in the next couple of seasons, the argument for keeping him carries more weight – at least to me.

        My biggest concern is the apparent lack of legit hitting prospects moving through the farm system. Hopefully that will all change, one way or the other.

        To be clear: Joey Votto is the bomb!

      • CP

        I’d be okay with trading Joey Votto if the Reds have an actual plan. The problem is, they don’t have a Yonder Alonso waiting around, and I cannot imagine getting meaningful prospects back given his contract, so if the Reds cannot compete with or without Joey and just pocket the money, then I’m less pleased (i.e. the Reds win 75 games with or without Joey, I want to keep Joey so I have somebody good to watch). I don’t think this year is repeatable, but who knows?

        Of course, if it is a wholesale rebuilding plan to tank like the Astros implemented, then I might be for it. Reds management simply isn’t that aggressive though so I’d be extremely skeptical of their motives.

  4. Jeremy Conley

    Because of the way the collective bargaining agreements have set up player compensation, players are frequently paid relatively little for their most productive years. This leaves teams with lots of money to spend, which and they get into bidding wars over free agents. This in turn causes some players to get paid a ton for some of their least productive years.

    Some teams can just keep taking on more salary, so the issue of paying a lot for guys who aren’t that good isn’t that significant for them. For the other 25 or so teams, the key is paying players for their most productive years and not for their least productive years. This means signing good players to team-friendly extensions when they are very young, or trading them when they start to get too expensive.

    The Reds failed to manage their payroll effectively. They signed too many big extensions, and didn’t move any of their players for prospects until this year when it was too late. The Pirates have team-friendly deals in place with Marte, Kang, McCutcheon, Morton, Liriano, and Harrison. That with a decent farm system should keep them competitive for a good while.

    • lwblogger2

      I tend to agree with pretty much everything you say here. I also agree on what you said above about some of the bad contracts that the Reds have signed players to, and the limited production from those players. I’m not sure I’d lump BP in there though. I’m not a huge proponent of WAR but even conservative estimates of WAR values on the open market would suggest that BP’s contract was fair given his production this season. As for value in 2016 and 2017, that’s TBD. Honestly, I thought it would be upside down by now but it wasn’t in 2015.

  5. ArtWayne

    Reds need to get rid of the prima donnas.

    • lwblogger2

      Like who? I can’t think of a lot of “prima donnas” on this team. BP perhaps? Also, every team has at least a one and many are “prima donnas” because they are exceptional players.

  6. CI3J

    I think all this article did was confirm what we all know: The Reds’ front office is short sighted and old fashioned, and their decisions have crippled the team to an extent.

    It’s not impossible for the Reds to compete with the way their finances are set up, but it’s a whole lot harder. For a small market team, you need every advantage you can get, and having your front office actively (if unknowingly) conspiring against your success is a huge disadvantage.

    Small market teams are essentially farms for the big money clubs on either coast and in Chicago. Good players play for the small market teams, then as soon as it’s time for them to start earning what they are worth, you trade them or let them walk to LA, NY or whoever wants to pay them. Then you restock/rebuild and the cycle repeats. Small market teams hit the jackpot when they get a young, talented core together that hasn’t reach the FA/arbitration years. That core is good for at most, a 5 year competitive window, then you flip them to the big markets and hope the prospects you get back can form the new young core. This is the only financially viable way for a small market team to remain competitive.

    This is the basic reality of modern baseball. How can so many people “get it”, but our own front office doesn’t?

    • Jeremy Conley

      The thing is, it doesn’t have to be cyclical. It only turns cyclical when you hang on to your core too long. The Reds kept saying, “we think this core can win” so they did everything they could to keep them. In the process, they traded away some decent prospects and gave out big extensions.

      If they had moved one player every year or two since 2011 or so, they could have kept a steady stream of talent coming in and never collapsed.

      • Tom Reed

        Well stated, Jeremy. Castellini is a good owner, overall. But he and the Reds front office get too attached to certain players and the turnover, that is a key to a smaller market’s team success, does not occur before longer expensive contracts are given out or the player is past his prime. A strong farm system and young players who stay around for a limited number of years is the key to the Red’s being competitive.

      • ohiojimw

        I’m convinced there is nobody in the Reds org right now that is in a real position of authority who understands and values the role of offense in the game today.

        The Cubs just started a catcher in RF in the WC game and batted him 2nd. All he did was drive in the first three runs inside the first three innings to set the tone of the game. They also started an IF in LF and a SS at 2B all to get more offense on the field. Even if the Reds were so blessed to have the talent to do this they wouldn’t because they are convinced you have to put your best defense on the field regardless of its offensive shortcomings.

      • greenmtred

        You frame this to imply that the Reds have a bunch of mashers on the bench who aren’t playing because the philosophy dictates that the best fielders play. What the Reds have is fielding (or had before Cozart and Hamilton went down). The guys who can hit are playing already, but there aren’t many of them. Anyway, we suffered through an era of hitting and no fielding, and it didn’t work. A winning team needs enough of both, and enough pitchiong, obviously. Balance in all things.

      • ohiojimw

        I said if the Reds had the talent to load the line up with offense I didn’t think they would do it which I meant to imply that I know they don’t have it.

        The Reds org just finished the 2nd straight season without a clearly can’t miss position player prospect at the AAA level, regardless of his offensive ability. Aside from Winker there are no such prospects who have played extensively even at AA.

        In Lorenzen they had probably the best most nearly developed position player prospect to come into the org since Winker. They decided to turn him into a starting pitcher without even looking at him as a position guy based on 43 innings thrown as a closer in college where he was an everyday CF compiling a .925+ OPS (.400+ OBP) over 227 PAs in his final year at CS/Fullerton. Thus my statement about not understanding or valuing offense.

      • charlottencredsfan

        This is why I picked the Cubs to win the whole enchilada before the season started. Two words: Joe Maddon. As I also predicted, the Cubs would get better and better as the season wore on and the youngsters gained confidence.

        I think we are looking at a Toronto-Chicago WS. Just like last year, the team with the best skipper will win. To add transparency, I picked the O’s to win the AL title.

      • Jeremy Conley

        With the hole in left field, Mesoraco’s hip, and tucker Barnhart’s ability behind the plate, I feel like Mesoraco to left is sort of a no-brainer, but the Reds don’t seem that flexible about it.

      • ohiojimw

        I posted a comment the other day that the injuries to Meso, Cozart, and Hamilton really put the Reds on the spot in planning for 2016 as those are all three essentially defensive specialty positions to cover; and they aren’t going to know until ST or later what they have in the incumbent returning from injury.

        The track history is pretty cleat that barring an atypical set back Meso should be good to go as an OF. Thus they could take a step to make life much simpler by pencilling Meso into left getting a journeyman receiver to share the catching duties with Barnhart. If they figure out as the season progresses that Meso could return to catching, they can always do that in 2017.

  7. Peter Ponds

    There you go. Good lesson for those who always praise other teams´s saavy ways and love to criticize the Reds. The all mighty Pirates beaten by a bunch of rookies and a very good pitcher. Baseball beauty. 🙂

    • ohiojimw

      Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out how getting into the WC game 3 consecutive year but losing twice, plus losing their LDS the year they won the wild card exceeds winning two divisional championships plus qualifying for the WC over a 5 year stretch.

      This year the Pirates had a losing record versus every other NL Central team, including our woeful Reds and the not much better Brewers.

      If they would have won a combined total of 3 more games versus those two dreadful teams, they would have won the division. Given this, I wasn’t really too surprised by what went down Wednesday night.

      • Peter Ponds

        Because, you know, their advanced analytics dept. told them so. Same with those pretty advanced front offices in Boston, San Diego and Oakland.

        Even funnier is the guy in Houston bragging about this season. Of course, drafting 1 or 2 the last 7 years because they constantly lost 100 plus games didn´t have anything to do, LOL.

      • CP

        Sure, but only 2 of those guys have made it to the majors so far. We haven’t even seen what the grown up version of the Astros are going to look like yet…it’s a little scary.

        The Astros also made a conscious decision to essentially tank for high draft picks. They didn’t just accidentally find themselves in a rebuilding period like some teams.

        Their players also openly praise their sabermetricians working for the team. Heck, Dallas Keuchel openly praised his organization’s sabermetric staff (the largest in the league). In addition, Keuchel was drafted in the 7th round. When was the last time the Reds had a 7th round pick develop into a star? When was the last time the Reds had one drafted after the second round?

      • ohiojimw

        Whatever the circumstances that got the Astros where they were, I think going from 111 losses to an ALDS in two years is worth being excited about.

        In baseball, one player or even two, for example a Strasburg or Harper as we’ve seen with the Nats, isn’t enough to totally get the job done. If the Astros emerge as a true force and power, it will be due the job they’ve done clear down the line and across the board.

      • Matt WI

        And you don’t think how Houston used those draft picks has anything to do with that success? And how they executed trades? It’s just a happy accident? Because by that logic, when the Pirates went 20 years (20!) without a winning record, they should have been a dynasty after the first 10 years. It took the Pirates getting themselves a real plan and a mission to get to this point, not just high draft picks.

      • Matt WI

        This was supposed to be a reply under Peter a few posts upthread,.

      • CP

        I don’t think the reply function is working.

        The Astros also have also used their analytics to find players that other teams don’t like on the free agent market. A good example is Colin McHugh. I read an article about how he struggled for the Rockies and was cut. The Astros’ analysts saw McHugh’s curve ball spins 2000 times per minutes, where the average curve spins at about 1,500 times per minute. The Astros basically found a #2 or #3 pitcher on the scrap heap. Guys like this would help the Reds afford guys like Carlos Gomez when the need arises.

  8. jamesgarrett

    TOM REED said it best in that Bob has got attached to our core players just like a bunch of us have including me.This core made us relevant and its hard to see that their time is over.I will hate to see any of them traded or let go but it has to happen and sadly we probably won’t get equal value but it is what it is .The Reds must realize as many have said you must constantly develop your minor leagues in order to stay competitive year after year at the major league level and we haven’t done that outside of developing pitchers.Its a business and the front office has to make the hard decisions just like any business does and let fans like us be fans.The best example is that the Cardinals let Albert walk and if I was a fan of the Cardinals I probably would still not be over it but they haven’t missed a beat because they have others who stepped right in.

  9. Steve Mancuso

    One point that’s getting lost in the discussion about the size of Votto’s contract relative to the overall payroll is his value. If you average the FanGraphs and Baseball Reference estimates for Votto’s 2015 WAR it is 7.5. Studies show that in the past offseason, major league teams paid at least $7.5 million per expected WAR. Votto earned $56 million in value and was paid $14 million.

    It’s not enough just to look at what percentage of payroll did Votto’s salary take up. You have to look at how well he played.

    As Jeremy pointed out above, the problem with the Reds wasn’t Joey Votto. Look anywhere else, but not at him. The problem was all the other deadweight. If the Reds spent every dollar as well as they have spent on Joey Votto, they would be a sure World Series champion.

  10. Peter Ponds

    Unfortunately the reply function is not working properly or is disabled, but to my fellow posters that responded to my comment:

    It wasn´t 2 years that Houston lasted to come all the way up until this season. It´s been a long drought and painful period of rebuilding and being the laughingstock in MLB. Not too far away were the days that a series against Houston (or Chicago for that matter) was exactly what the doctors prescribed for a low point in the Reds seasons.

    Of course it took good drafting, health, luck and having great players at the top (Bryant, Correa, Schwarber, etc) to be drafted. But if one critic is absolutely wrong and unfair is how the Reds have done the past 7 years. 90% of the Roster is made of players drafted and developed by the team or acquired in trades for players drafted / developed by the team. For the poster who says that they haven´t found a star in the 7th round (hard thing to do my friend) I´ll say they found elite Votto in THE 2ND ROUND which means that every single team passed on him, some even twice.

    People forget the days when Chad Mottola, Chris Gruber or David Espinosa were our hopes for the future. Or signing Eric Milton to be our ACE.

    • Peter Ponds

      BTW, I said 7 years and I´m wrong, since Homer Bailey, Bruce, Votto, Frazier (2nd round), Cueto, and others I cant remember now were drafted before that.

      • Peter Ponds

        Cueto was a free agent, my mistake. Please, feature an edit function!

    • CP

      The reason I picked the second round was because of Joey Votto. I can’t really recall a player who has consistently contributed anything of value to the organization. I quickly scanned about 5-10 years and the best of the bunch are:

      Tony Cingrani (3)
      Sam Lecure (4)
      Paul Janish (5)
      Pedro Villarreal (7)
      Tucker Barnhardt (10)
      Josh Roenicke (10)
      Adam Rosales (12)
      Jason LaRue (5)

      You have to go back to 1997, when Scott Williamson was drafted in the 7th round to find a player that was more than just a role player for the Reds. Maybe this just shows how tough it is to find value in the draft outside the first couple rounds, or maybe it shows the Reds lack skill or simply haven’t had those lucky hits that other teams occasionally enjoy. The last real “star” that I could find the Reds hitting on was Reggie Sanders in 1997 (35+ WAR, not all for the Reds).

      The Reds actually had a really good run in the 80s drafting late (Davis, Browning, Sanders, Montgomery)

      • CP

        …I can’t really recall a player who has consistently contributed anything of value to the organization that was drafted outside the first two rounds…”

  11. sezwhom

    Except for McCutchen, is there anybody on the “Buccos” (George Grande) that scares you? Look at the Cubs. Some monster hitters on that team. Pirates are still good but they take a back seat to the Cards and Cubs now. Window closing a bit?

  12. WVRedlegs

    I am going to throw a name out there for you to watch this winter on trade talks.
    Look at the White Sox 4th or 5th OF in Trayce Thompson, 24 years old, RH hitter. He can play all 3 OF positions. He could help the LF and CF situations as well as the leadoff situation. Very good defender. A little speed and a little power. He is what we had hoped that Phillip Ervin would turn into, and still might someday.
    WhiteSox could use a young LH pitcher, and this is where Lamb or Finnegan could fit the bill.

    • Jeremy Conley

      He doesn’t look bad, but he also doesn’t look like much of a prospect. With a minor league line of .241/.319/.429 he looks like at most a 4th outfielder. No way I would trade one of our top pitching prospects for him.

      • WVRedlegs

        That is a concern, But he was a 2nd round pick coming out of high school, so the potential has always been there. Maybe he is just now realizing that potential at 24. That is where your crack scouting department and sabermetrics department come into play to tell you if he is worth it. Maybe, maybe not. But his line of .295/.363/.533 for the WhiteSox in 44 games this year is intriguing. That would have to better than BHam in CF, and leadoff. He’d be cost-controlled for next 5-6 seasons, too.
        A more experienced ML OF might be more what the Reds need though. Other than Christian Yelich, I think Charlie Blackmon of the Rox would be nice to get in on. Chapman and Bruce and a prospect can bring back a couple of high OBP hitters, if they decide to hold onto all of their pitching prospects.

      • Jeremy Conley

        I don’t think they need an experienced major leaguer, in fact that might not be the way to go, but I would want a better prospect.

        It’s possible that he’s found something, but lots of guys have success when they first come up because there’s no scouting report on them. Remember when Heisey hit 18 HRs in 120 games? And he had an .816 OPS in the minors.

        If our scouting department thought he was going to be an impact player, then sure, you have to trust them. And hey, our bench is bad, so I wouldn’t mind getting him for that purpose, I just wouldn’t want to give up Lamb or Finnegan for him.

        I have trouble seeing Chapman and Bruce packaged together, unless you weren’t really getting anything back. Chapman alone should still get you a good prospect, but Bruce effectively has no trade value at this point, and has a pretty big salary, so tying him to anyone else would essentially just reduce what you would get back.

        I think they have to hold Bruce and hope they can get him turned around. I think they can move Chapman for a hitting prospect, and could potentially trade a pitching prospect for a hitting prospect if they think they have enough pitching prospects.

      • ohiojimw

        I don’t agree Bruce is worthless in trade. He is going to hit his 25-30 HRs and his defense is still OK even if not what it once was. The sunk commitment remaining on him is $13M ($12.5 for 2016 500K buyout on 2017). Someone will give up some talent for and pay him to hit the HRs for that price.

        That said, I agree with he is probably more valuable to the Reds to hang onto him because he is still relatively young for an OF and could return to his 2010-2013 production which would make him a good value (his lowest OPS+ between ’10&13 was 118, highest 124).

      • WVRedlegs

        I wasn’t thinking so much as a trade with both Chapman and Bruce in it, but that sure would be one heck of a blockbuster. I was thinking more along the line of Chapman in one trade and Bruce and a prospect in another for a couple of hitters.
        I saw an updated mid-season top prospect list for the WhiteSox and Thompson was listed at #9. They said he adopted a new hitting approach for 2015, and this may account for his better stats. They were like you, calling him a #4 OF, but with the new approach they think that he is capable of making it as a starter and not a bench or AAAA-type of player.
        A sleeper candidate, yes, and we all know how WJ likes to slumber in the winter. Maybe there is a matchup.

  13. WVRedlegs

    Boy, did Pete Rose throw the Reds, Bryan Price, the front office and ownership under the bus last night on his Fox Sports 1 pre-game show last night, or what?
    There was banter going on on the set between the players and the non-player, I don’t know his name, said to Rose, “our producer just said in my ear to Pete, the Reds aren’t in it this year.”
    And Pete quips, “Hey, it’s going to be many, many years before the Reds are back here.”
    Ouch! Say it ain’t so Pete.
    Pete being Pete.

    • Chuck Schick

      How is that throwing them under the bus? Does anyone really think the Reds will be in the playoffs anytime soon? What was he suppose to say, ” I know they lost 98 games and have 3 of the best teams in baseball in their division, but next year they’ll have a full season of Adam Duvall, so watch out”?

      • WVRedlegs

        As a Reds ambassador, he could have chosen something more positive to say.
        He could have said, “My Reds will be back here soon enough. They aren’t going to sit idly by and just let the Cubs and Pirates take over the NL Central.”

      • Chuck Schick

        He’s not a Reds ambassador. He is a baseball commentator. His job is to express his opinion on baseball, not blindly defend the Reds.